Saturday, January 8, 2011
Baptism of Jesus
On our pilgrimage to the Holy Land we went to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. From where the bus parked we walked back a long, hot, dusty path to a sturdy pavilion with steps going down into the water. I stepped down to the water level, stooped down and scooped water up over my head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I felt very close to Jesus and to the early Christians who had remembered this site.
We know that they were already celebrating a feast of the Baptism of Jesus in the 2nd century. It may have been even before the end of the first century. This event was precious to them because it revealed that Jesus was God. It is easy for us to forget that for the people of his time Jesus looked every bit a man like every other man. The Baptism revealed that this ordinary looking man was also God.
Through Jesus God moves into our world and becomes one of us. I find it helpful to think that the membrane between the divine and human dimensions was ruptured. Matthew says heaven opens up, the Spirit of God moves dove-like into our world, and we can hear God's voice saying that this is his Son whom he loves. The hymn puts it, "God in flesh made manifest."